2019 Bills

HB 120: Overreaction in the Name of School Safety

This bill passed the House 45-22 and the Senate unanimously. 

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and should be opposed.

In reaction to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, several interested parties formed the School Safety Commission to brainstorm ideas to address the issue of school safety in Utah.

The group’s proposal is now House Bill 120, sponsored by Representative Ray Ward. The bill would, among other things:

  • create a central, government-managed database with the personally identifiable information of students who are deemed to be a threat or have “aberrant
    behavior” to which law enforcement will have access not restricted by state statute;
  • require schools to form a “threat assessment and student support team” including school administrators, mental health professionals, teachers, and law enforcement;
  • create a “school climate survey” whose purpose is not defined in law, to be used by the threat assessment team to guide their efforts;
  • allocates a total of $100 million in taxpayer dollars to fund law enforcement officers having an increased presence on K-12 campuses, new construction costs for capital improvements, etc.; and
  • requires the State Board of Education to hire a law enforcement officer to develop model policies to be used by schools and training to be used by law enforcement officers working on school campuses.

In a previous presentation, Representative Ward indicated that there is “no guarantee” that this massive spending and bureaucratic intervention will increase student safety and that it is “our best effort.”

The substantial sum envisioned by this proposal is staggering, but so too is the degree to which law enforcement officials and school administrators are tasked with focusing on purported threats of harm and “aberrant behavior,” which might disproportionately lead to altercations with children with autism and other circumstances that might not fit neatly within expected behavior by a member of the “threat assessment and student support team.”

It is especially worrisome that students will be catalogued in a centralized database that the law does not even regulate; authority to determine who gets to access the database, and under what circumstances, is delegated to the Board of Education entirely.

This overreaction to an incident in another state is troubling, for both the taxpayer burden and the government intervention into personal information and behavior.